Upcoming Concert

The Orpheus Singers will not offer a concert in the Fall of 2016. A further announcement regarding the Spring of 2017 will appear here later.

Recent Concerts

Winter 2016: Across the Centuries – A Song Recital for Mixed Voices

Read the complete program or just the program notes.


Program Notes

In 1955, Randall Jarrell wrote this about Wallace Stevens and his poetry: “Minds of this quality of genius, of this breadth and delicacy of understanding, are a link between us and the past, since they are for us the past made living; and they are our surest link with the future, since they are the part of us which the future will know.” This is the poem of Samuel Daniel (d.1619) set by Alexander Goehr (b. 1932) in his “O Blessèd Letters” on tonight’s program:

“O blessèd Letters, that combine in one
All ages past, and make one live with all:
By you we doe conferre with who are gone,
And the dead living unto councell call:
By you th’ unborne shall have communion
Of what we feele, and what doth us befall.”

Our way of acknowledging and honoring the truth of these statements is to bring music from the past and present together in the hope that our small effort will help deliver these finely wrought works into the future. Lassus’ music is not much heard even though he is regarded as one of the most accomplished composers of the late Renaissance. Monteverdi’s music has gained many performances in the past forty-plus years, but not his madrigals as much as his larger-scale pieces. Brahms and Schubert are known by their many-movement works and solo songs, but not as much by their a cappella choral works. The same is true for Elgar’s music. Marjorie Merryman’s music is played today, and we hope its combination of lyricism and interior strength will give it a future. In spite of winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1974, Donald Martino’s music is rarely played now though this bears no relation to its intrinsic beauty and strength. Although Ben Weber’s music was admired and played in the 1940s and 1950s, only a small number of musicians know it now. All this music is too beautiful, too expressive and too important to let go.

This concert of choral songs from across many centuries is like an anthology of poems, gathered together from many eras to form one volume. The words of these songs depict human interests that bear relevance in all centuries without regard to fashions or trends: reverence for music; the ever-present concern for the soul and dying; being in nature at the break of day or longing for the return of summer as winter approaches, and feelings at the end of a day – meditating on one’s own meaning, anticipating the dawn with the fall of night, or experiencing newly arrived calm. We’re hoping you will have time and inclination to read through the poetry of tonight’s concert on pages 2 – 9 before the music begins.

A compositional practice holds these pieces together. They are permeated by the Western contrapuntal way of composing, a way that began eleven centuries ago and has lasted through all the musical and social changes of the ensuing centuries. This way is as relevant to the pieces by Donald Martino, Marjorie Merryman, and Ben Weber as to those of Lassus, Byrd, Monteverdi, Schubert, and Elgar. In this technique, voices share melodic importance. As they progress together, independent in rhythm and melody, they form chords, and these, following their own rules developed over the past four centuries, work in constant synchronization with the voices to form levels of musical meaning. When composers with a high degree of talent, craft and imagination create such pieces, we are given works that inspire wonder.

– James Olesen

October 18, 2014: The Ialian Madrigal – Early and Late

Lindsey Chapel at Emmanuel Church, Boston

  • Arcadelt: Poems of Laura by Petrarch
  • Monteverdi: Ariadne’s Abandonment on Naxos
  • Dallapiccola: Two Modern Madrigals on Unhappy Marriages

May 17, 2014: Moderns

Parish Hall at Emmanuel Church, Boston

  • Stravinsky
  • Hindemth
  • Schönberg
  • Debussy

Past Seasons

October 19, 2013: Wit and Wisdom – Lieder for Many Voices of Lassus, Haydn and Schubert

Parish Hall at Emmanuel Church, Boston

February 23, 2013: The German Lied Tradition – Part-Songs of Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann

Parish Hall at Emmanuel Church, Boston

February 18, 2012: American Moderns with Karen Harvey, Piano

Emmanuel Church, Boston

November 12, 2011: In the Time of Louis XIV – French Baroque Classics

Parish Hall at Emmanuel Church, Boston

February 12, 2011: Schubert Part-Songs with piano

Parish Hall at Emmanuel Church, Boston

October 17, 2010: Concert shared with Zamir Chorale and Spectrum Singers.

Emmanuel Center, Boston

October 16, 2010: Longing For The Divine

Lindsey Chapel at Emmanuel Church, Boston

April 24, 2010: Music of Elgar and Weelkes

Parish Hall at Emmanuel Church, Boston

October 24, 2009: The Spirit Ascends

Lindsey Chapel at Emmanuel Church, Boston

April 18-19: A Judeo-Christian Musical Tradition

Beth El Temple Center, Belmont

September 27, 2008: Choral Polyphony: Guillaume Dufay to Elliott Carter

Lindsey Chapel at Emmanuel Church, Boston

March 22, 2008:

Irving Fine Memorial Concert, Brandeis University

October 20, 2007: Italian a cappella Voices, Music of the 16th, 17th, and 20th Centuries

Lindsey Chapel at Emmanuel Church, Boston

February, 2007: a cappella Brahms, A Part of his Heritage and Legacy

Lindsey Chapel at Emmanuel Church, Boston

October, 2006: English Madrigals, Songs, Ballets, and American Choral Song

University Lutheran Church, Cambridge

Debut Concert, November, 2005: Palestrina Missa Brevis, French Chansons, and works of Schuetz, Stravinsky, Donald Martino, and Peter Maxwell Davies.

Lindsey Chapel at Emmanuel Church, Boston